By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The Troy hockey team may have dominated play from start to finish Saturday on Senior Night.
But the Trojans needed every last bit of effort from their seniors — and a bit of luck — to come away with the win.
Trojan senior Jack McGuirk scored a pair of goals, and fellow senior Ian Kuntz’s insurance goal early in the third period proved to be huge as visiting Sycamore scored a pair of late short-handed goals and forced Troy to hold on for dear life, but senior goalie Scott Riedel made one final critical save on yet another short-handed attempt with less than a minute to play and the Trojans kept the puck in Sycamore’s end from there to close out an edge-of-your-seat 4-3 nail-biter Saturday at Hobart Arena.
The Trojans also honored their five seniors before the game: Scott Riedel, Grant Gariety, Ian Kuntz, Austin Strong and Jack McGuirk.
With the win, Troy improved to 10-13 overall and 7-6 in the SWOHSHL Gold Division, holding fast in second place in the Gold behind 12-0 Beavercreek. It also finished off the season sweep against Sycamore, which the Trojans defeated 7-3 on the road back on Jan. 4.
This time, though, the matchup was more bitterly contested — and Sycamore made sure it was physical.
Troy’s Kuntz was robbed on a pair of early breakaways by Sycamore goalie Andrew Crook, who did everything he could all night long to keep the Aves in contention. But the Trojans kept the pressure on, and eventually Kuntz skated around three defenders to get to the net and fired off a shot, then Jack McGuirk was able to follow that up and stuff in the rebound to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead with 5:26 left in the first period.
And once that first goal went up on the board, the penalties began flying.
Sycamore was called for a five-minute major with 3:59 left in the first, and then the teams each were whistled for a penalty over the next two minutes, giving the Trojans one minute of a five-on-three advantage. But all of those penalties were killed off, and Troy held a slim 1-0 lead after the first period.
With 11:34 remaining in the second, a scuffle in front of the Sycamore net led to a pair of penalties on the Aves and one on the Trojans, and when Sycamore was called for yet another penalty at the 11:00 mark, Troy once again had a five-on-three advantage.
But not only could the Trojans not do anything with the power play, Sycamore’s Johnny Ciotola stole the puck at the point and took it the other way on an uncontested breakaway, scoring an extremely short-handed goal to even the score at 1-1 — something that would later become a trend in the game.
Over the next five minutes, the Trojans were called for penalties three times, even giving the Aves 20 seconds of five-on-three play, but Riedel and the Troy defense held strong throughout and killed them all off. Not only that, but with 2:41 left in the period and 30 seconds left on the final one of those penalties, the Trojans put home a short-handed goal to retake the lead as Jack McGuirk drove home his second of the night on an assist from Mike McGuirk and Zak Uhlenbrock to make the score 2-1 Troy.
Sycamore was then whistled for a pair of penalties as play got chippy and the referees tried to regain control, one at the 1:23 mark and another at 1:20 to give Troy a five-on-three advantage for a third time in the game … but Troy was hit with a penalty with 54.1 seconds on the clock, making it only five-on-four. Still, the Trojans were able to finally break through on a power play as Jack McGuirk sent the puck to Uhlenbrock for a one-timer attempt that was saved by Crook — but Uhlenbrock followed his own shot and crammed in a rebound with 30.5 seconds on the clock to give Troy a 3-1 lead after two periods.
And with 14:38 remaining in the game and the teams skating four-on-four, Kuntz was finally able to get on the board, ripping in a slapshot on an assist from Uhlenbrock to make it a three-goal game — and the Trojans ended up needing every last bit of that insurance score.
A flurry of two penalties apiece over the next three minutes led to nothing, as the power plays were all killed off or neutralized — but with 5:18 remaining a Sycamore player was sent to the box, and on the resulting power play Andrew Bever stole the puck and beat Riedel on an uncontested breakaway for another short-handed goal that cut Troy’s lead to two. And after another penalty on the Aves with 2:40 to play, Bever again stole the puck and took it in for a short-handed breakaway goal that cut the lead to one at 4-3 with 1:31 to play.
Bever got one more chance to tie it on another breakaway on the same Troy power play, but Riedel was able to make the save with 52.9 seconds left. And from there, Troy kept the puck in the Aves’ defensive zone, with Kuntz nearly putting the game away with a blistering slapper with 23.1 to go that was snared by Crook. Still, the Trojans were able to keep Crook in the net and never gave the Aves a chance to tie the score, sealing the win.
Troy outshot Sycamore 47-16 on the night, with Riedel making 13 saves and Crook making 43.
Next up, Troy hosts the NE Eagles Sunday for Military Appreciation Day, with the puck scheduled to drop at 5:45 p.m.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.